19 January 2016

Apple walnut spice cake {dairy-free}

Breakfasty cakes, especially coffee cake, have been on my mind a lot lately. Moist, rich squares of cake with a delicious crumble topping, all held together by an exorbitant amount of what? Butter, of course. So much of a coffee cake's flavor comes from butter, I couldn't bring myself to bother trying to recreate it to fit my current dairy-free, soy-free needs.

But on Sunday, as we were leaving the parish hall after Mass, Little Bear caught sight of the big sheet cake being sliced up in preparation for the soup kitchen. Of course he was just sure that he needed some, and I wound up promising that he could help me bake cake at home later instead. "So, what kind of cake are we having?" Matt asked on the way home. 

"Apple cake!" Little Bear told him. "An apple coffee cake?" Matt interpreted. "Good idea!" While they proceeded to go back and forth about what 'coffee cake' meant and how Little Bear wanted apples in the cake, not coffee, I started flipping through recipes. After looking at a whole bunch, though, I still couldn't make myself attempt a dairy-free coffee cake proper. Most of the cake-ier cake recipes I was finding were intended for bundt or tube pans, which I don't have, but then I found this old-fashioned apple cake from King Arthur Flour that looked adaptable. Swap out the butter for oil, bump up the spices to compensate for the lost flavor, give up on the frosting as a lost cause and decide to just serve it au natural... and we have a new favorite. This is deicious!

1 1/3 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 eggs
6 tablespoons oil
4 cups peeled diced tart apples
1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix together everything except the apples and walnuts, beating until well combined. Mine looked like a graham cracker crust mixture—almost like coarse damp sand! It looks ridiculously dry, but don't go adding any extra liquid: add the apples and walnuts and beat it for a couple of minutes. As the apple pieces release their juice, the batter will magically come together. When it resembles slightly soft cookie dough, stop beating and press it into a greased 13x9 pan. Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes, and cool (in pan) on a wire rack. 

09 January 2016

Week wrap-up

Not feeling organized enough to attempt a cohesive Seven Quick Takes, but it's been a post-deserving week, so here we go:

A) Matt was in Juneau for work from dark o'clock Monday morning until dark o'clock Friday evening, which was the longest I've parented solo since Kit was born. Under normal circumstances, I would have spent a bunch of time at my mom's house so Little Bear could play with my younger siblings, but they had the stomach flu going through their house all week, so we stayed home. And it actually went a lot better than it could have! Little Bear was helpful and well-behaved most of the time, and he and Kit both cooperated better at bedtimes than I'd had any right to expect. We're all SO glad to have Matt home now, though! 

2) Thursday morning saw us back in the clinic. Our pediatrician walked past and said hi while Kit was being weighed, then did a double take, put his head back around the corner, and asked, "Again?!?" Yes, I sighed, again. The upshot of that visit is that 

- I now have a better understanding of humoral vs T-cell mediated reactions in regard to allergies,
- I'm barred from soy as well as dairy, and
- he really would like us to have her seen by a pediatric gastroenterologist, but the closest one is a six hour drive away. So we're still trying to figure that out.

III) We feel ridiculous for admitting it, but -7 F felt bitterly cold today. This is January! We should be on the upswing from our first or second bout of -40s, reveling in these tropical temperatures, but instead we're wearing flannel and putting one more log on the fire, because the last couple of weeks have been right around 32 above and this feels so cold in comparison. Such a weird winter.

4) Most mornings this week, Little Bear and I found new photos of Juneau in my email from Matt. 

The mountains were beautiful, but there were a couple of pictures he had to explain to us: There was no snow in Juneau this week, but long ice crystals so heavily carpeted everything that each morning it looked like snow had fallen. 

E) I completely forgot to read and write about the 13th chapter of Luke this week, didn't I? Oops. And a new week, with a new chapter attendant, begins tomorrow... Okay, one quick thought. In Luke 13:21, Christ compares the Kingdom of God to yeast, which a woman mixes into "three measures of flour" until the whole dough is leavened. When I think about yeast, about dough and making bread, a few words come to mind. Patience: we have to wait for the yeast to proof, wait while the dough slowly rises. There's no way to make yeast hurry up; it goes as quickly as it does, and my timetable doesn't affect it a whit. Work: you don't just sprinkle yeast in the bowl, walk away, and come back to bread! The dough gets mixed, then kneaded—folding and turning and punching down, over and over again. Then after it's risen, it gets punched down again, before it can be formed into the proper shape. And thirdly, hidden activity: the yeast itself is working silently within the dough from the moment it's combined with the water, even though we can't always see movement or it seems to be taking forever. 

VI) Supper on Wednesday was supposed to be carnitas with homemade tortillas, which was absolutely ridiculous of me to write down for halfway through an entire week of not having Matt home. Supper on Wednesday was actually pigs in blankets with either sauerkraut (for me) or Swiss cheese (for Little Bear) wrapped up inside the pizza dough with the hot dog. If I could eat dairy right now, I think both of them together would probably have been good; as it was, the sauerkraut was definitely the best part of my supper.

I think there were more thoughts rattling around in my head from this week, but I'm too sleepy to come up with them right now. Too long of a week to be able to remember the week, or something like that. Have a good, hopefully restful, Sunday! We'll try to as well.

03 January 2016

Chocolate-covered coconut balls

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Internet gave to me: this amazing and delicious dairy-free recipe!

I know, it doesn't quite fit the meter. That's okay. These little treats completely make up for my lack of poeticalness. And ability to use real words, apparently. Moreover, they've erased all of my lingering resentment about not being able to eat Christmas cookies this year. These things are amazing.

The idea came from these dark chocolate coconut bites from Pinch of Yum, but I Kit and I didn't quite follow the recipe as written... Here's how we made ours:

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
4 tablespoons maple syrup*
5 tablespoons coconut oil
Splash of vanilla
1+ cup(s) semisweet chocolate chips

In a bowl, mush together the coconut, syrup, coconut oil and vanilla with your fingers until thoroughly combined. Take large pinches and squeeze them firmly in your hand to make balls, about an inch in diameter. Line the balls up on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for half an hour. 

Melt chocolate chips; I started out with about 3/4 of a cup, but I ate some, and then I ran out of chocolate when I was coating the coconut balls so I had to melt more, but my additional 1/2 cup of chocolate chips were about 34 degrees F when they went in the microwave so they didn't melt well, not having sat on the counter for a half hour like the first batch, so I really don't know exactly how much I used (or should have used). The size of the balls will affect the amount of chocolate you wind up needing, too, so I'd recommend starting with 1 cup but making sure you have more room-temperature chips standing by just in case.

Anyway! Melt the chocolate chips, then carefully roll the chilled coconut balls in the melted chocolate and set them back on the wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill the balls until the chocolate hardens, then transfer them to a wax paper-lined tin and store them in the fridge (you can use the same wax paper from the cookie sheet).

*I used Grade B maple syrup, which is stronger and darker than Grade A. It's delicious, but 4 tablespoons of it made for a very strong flavor. Next time I might try Grade A or honey instead, or an adult-only version with 2 tablespoons each of honey and rum, or of maple syrup and some liquor. Bourbon? What would you pair with maple?

01 January 2016

SQT: New Years edition

So many greetings appropriate to today: Happy new year, Blessed solemnity of the Theotokos, and of course Merry eighth day of Christmas! We've been celebrating our way through the Christmas season here in the Shifflerhaus, but today has been extra special for the solemnity: we went to Mass, had a lovely herbed pork loin with padahae and green salad for dinner, and I sang the Akathist to the Theotokos this evening all the way through. I absolutely love that hymn! 

We've also been enjoying some absurdly warm weather all week, which is sure nice after the cold we had leading up to Christmas, but lately it's been too warm; I took the kids for a walk yesterday, and it was 40 degrees out! We don't want the snowpack starting to melt for months yet; the roads will be awful for the rest of the winter if they get icy now. Little Bear, though, has been very happy with the warmth: he's outside playing every chance he gets!

Do you have your 2016 patron saint yet? This year, Jen Fulwiler's saint generator gave me St Honoratus, which made me laugh—he's the patron saint of bakers, and I spend a lot of time baking! I'm looking forward to learning more about him this year.

Actually, I could definitely benefit from his intercession these days. Little Kit and I are still off dairy, and my success/failure record with dairy-free baking has been pretty sharply divided. Sandwich bread, hamburger buns, fruitcake, and Christstollen have all turned out perfectly; all of the non-dairy sweets that I've tried, though, have met an abrupt and inglorious end in the trash can. Well, the disastrous attempt at almond milk tapioca pudding went down the disposal instead, but same thing. Homemade sweetened condensed coconut milk is delicious, we learned, but melting in chocolate chips and letting it set up does not produce what Matt and I had in mind as proper fudge. And the cookies just... Matt finally suggested that we just make a second batch of fruitcake and forget about Christmas cookies this year, so that's what we're doing.


If I was a coffee drinker, though, I think I'd be tempted to make this stuff all the time, it's so good. Decadent. Amazing. We've already established that I do not like it with chocolate, but I might have to come up with some other way of drinking it (without drinking it straight, though that sounds delicious) so I can justify making some more. And it's so easy:

Pour one can of full-fat coconut milk into a small pot with a quarter cup of whatever sweetener you want—I used honey—and bring it to a boil over medium heat for five minutes. Then reduce the heat and just let it simmer until it reduces by half. Mine probably took closer to an hour than to 45 minutes, but I imagine different sweeteners and different stoves could change cooking times, so keep checking it once you pass a half hour.


On Christmas Eve, Matt let Kit play with the rim of his water glass, and ever since, any time one of us picks up a glass while we're holding her she lunges for it, both hands grasping the sides, and tries to pull it to her mouth. She makes the funniest faces and sounds, burbling conversationally as she gnaws on the rim, trying to stick her tongue in to reach the water, but sometimes I just want to drink from a glass that's not full of baby drool, you know? But she's so cute, we usually wind up letting her play.

I suppose I've skipped over the obligatory acknowledgement that we had a lovely Christmas Day, which we did, and are continuing to have a jolly Christmastide, which we are. I hope all of our Christmas morning photos are on Matt's phone, because I don't seem to have any! This is a fair example of what most days since have looked like, though: Little Bear and Kit playing together. So far he's been very good about sharing with her, and she's very enthusiastic about watching whatever he's doing.

Blessed solemnity, happy new year, and a merry rest of the Christmas season to everyone! You can find more quick takes linked up at This Ain't The Lyceum